[sixties-l] Michael Kellys libel (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Sun Jan 26 2003 - 17:04:27 EST

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    Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003 16:06:41 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Michael Kellys libel

    Michael Kelly's libel


    THE DESPERATION OF THE HAWKS came out in a column by Michael Kelly much
    like something Richard Nixon or Joe McCarthy would have written in the 1950s:
    "The marches in Washington and San Francisco were chiefly sponsored, as was
    last October's antiwar march in Washington, by a group the [NY] Times chose
    to call in its only passing reference 'the activist group International
    Answer.' . . . International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) is
    a front group for the communist Workers World Party. The Workers World
    Party is, literally, a Stalinist organization. . . This is whom the left
    now marches with. The left marches with the Stalinists. The left marches
    with those who would maintain in power the leading oppressors of humanity
    in the world."
    Since the overwhelming majority of those marching had absolutely no
    connection with ANSWER, Kelly's remarks were not only tawdry and tacky,
    they were libelous, and bring to mind the mischievous thought of 300,000
    innocent souls filing individual actions against Kelly and the Washington Post.
    These are times for smears, however, because the establishment has run out
    of arguments, defenses, and excuses. Kelly's tantrum, and he does seem to
    have them, is the product of a mind that - as with, say, Communists and
    Christian fundamentalists - places excessive emphasis on theoretical
    assumptions and too little on actual facts. Like others of his ilk - such
    as David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens - he learned too much in college
    and too little since.
    Shoving all of life's experiences into theory is an ultimately
    unsatisfactory business and one of the things that causes such phenomena as
    wars and bad economics.
    While I wasn't as lucky as Ring Lardner Jr, who missed Marx because that
    segment of his economics course conflicted with the opening of the Red Sox
    season, I did find Marx boring, perhaps because I had already some
    experience with real politics, including being a gofer in a couple of
    campaigns that had ended 69 years of Republican rule in Philadelphia. No
    one in those campaigns had ever mentioned Marx to me, or even Locke, and I
    quickly concluded that political science courses were perhaps not the best
    place to learn about politics. Besides I could never figure out who was
    meant to run the restaurants in Utopia.
    People in real politics - even Communists - don't sit around talking about
    theories like Horowitz, Kelly or Hitchens. They do things, like opposing
    wars or trying to get someone elected. And one of the first principles of
    doing things, as opposed to just thinking deeply about them, is to find
    others who feel the same way. This can lead sometimes in surprising directions.
    In the 1980s, DC elected delegates to a convention at which a constitution
    was drafted to be used when and if we ever became a state. Among the
    delegates in an 80% Democratic town were some Republicans, Statehood Party
    members, and at least one Communist. I was covering a session, sitting
    right behind one of the Republicans and enjoying how often he voted with
    the Commie, whose predilections he had clearly not surmised. At one point,
    he turned to me and said, "Now we'll see how the hard left votes on this
    one." I replied, "I hate to tell you this, but you've been voting with the
    hard left all night."
    A historical rather than a ideological assessment of American communism can
    lead in surprising directions as well. For example, as Eric Foner has
    noted, about the only predominantly white group in the 1930s that made
    civil rights a priority was the Communist Party. Marvin Caplan, later
    director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, quotes an anti-civil
    rights activist at the time as saying, "Integration is the southern version
    of communism."
    The Communist Party, buoyed by people with nowhere else to go, fools,
    ideological partisans, and FBI infiltrators, survived in no small part
    because the rest of the political system wasn't doing what it should. There
    were traitors in their midst, but the record suggests that the subversives
    within the party probably did less damage to the country than, say, the
    double agents within the CIA. For the most part, the Communist Party
    provided a home for idealistic but shelterless activists who in better
    times would have been somewhere else.
    To superimpose the whole Cold War ideological conflict on top of this
    peculiarly American phenomenon is to miss much of the story, in particular
    the role played by radical socialist Jews and by blacks struggling for
    basic rights.
    Alfred Kazin described it this way:
    "When I was growing up on the Socialist religion, among the most excited
    messianic believers since primitive Christianity, it never occurred to me
    that there might be Jews who did not believe in socialism. Or that a time
    would come when Communists would so harden this religion that it would
    produce suicidal fanatics like the Rosenbergs and then equally vehement
    ex-radicals who, in their hatred of their past, became far right
    extremists. . . "
    During the 1960s, many of the movements for change had Communists in their
    coalition, in part because of the organizational skills they had developed.
    When you're planning a march, you don't have much time for ideology. A
    union organizer in the early part of the last century recalled going to
    Arkansas and forming a coalition that drew from two remarkably disparate
    sources: the black church and the KKK. Why? Because these were the two
    groups in the state that knew how to get things organized.
    If you're in the midst of action, and not just writing about it from afar,
    you learn to cope with the fact that the world doesn't all look like you.
    And what matters is what you believe, not what everyone with whom you are
    marching believes. Once you have this core of self-understanding you don't
    have to run and hide under the table just because Ramsey Clark walks into
    the room. And you learn, based on experience and not theory, when to work
    with someone and when to get the hell out.
    I have known a few Communists, just as I have known a few libertarians,
    black nationalists, greens, creationists, single taxers, liberals, and
    Washington Post op ed columnists. I have found the Commies to be
    rhetorically redundant and sometimes tedious but on the whole less trouble
    in an organization than, say, police infiltrators, another subspecies you
    meet if you're active long enough. I have never heard a single one mention
    Stalin, perhaps because they know I might argue with them, but more likely
    because Stalin is about as relevant these days as the Free Soil Party or
    the Know Nothings, even though Kelly wishes it otherwise.
    One of the reasons that Kelly may be upset is that nothing terrifies the
    establishment more than people coming together who shouldn't by all rights
    be together. And when you have Republicans and "Stalinists" and soccer moms
    and the previously apathetic all in the same march, there's plenty to be
    worried about.

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